Aliona Virsutiene: This is how you lead tech teams to their goals
Aliona Virsutiene studied political science and public policy, fields of study that you would probably not attribute to a Director of Engineering. Nevertheless, curiosity, courage and a bit of luck have led her to where she is today. The way into the tech industry began with two inspiring women and their motivation and persuasiveness. If it weren’t for these, Aliona would probably never have dared to take the leap to become a manager in the IT world.
Now Aliona Virsutiene is Director of Engineering at Vinted, the largest C2C online marketplace for second-hand fashion. She heads the company’s 40-strong development team and is convinced that success begins in the mind.
However, the way to the top was not always easy for Aliona: what has become a matter of course for her today was often a major challenge in the past herself. She finally overcame her doubts by realizing that it is diversity in a team that leads to top performance. Her strengths, which also lie in her femininity and emotionality, as well as in the areas of project management, leadership experience and communication skills, ultimately led Aliona Virsutiene to the top.
It’s old hat now, but it’s still a topical issue: IT is a male domain.
So how did Aliona get into pursuing a position in IT in the first place? Even at a young age, Aliona was fascinated not only by languages, but also by mathematics and physics. Even then, the socially anchored image of the computer nerd applied to MINT subjects. But Aliona couldn’t identify with that. She therefore initially aimed to study political science and public policy. Aliona was also interested in the event industry and the associated management of projects.
But it shouldn’t stay that way for long. After her detour into the world of events, Aliona realized that many processes could have been simpler. She wanted more. She was seized with new ambitions, because she now absolutely wanted to gain experience in a sector from which one could learn how fast and precise processes should be carried out. So Aliona finally moved into the IT industry, where she developed from IT project manager and team leader to department manager. Years later, she is now Vinted’s Director of Engineering, inspiring more than 40 software engineers to their peak performance every day.
Leading and leading technical teams without an engineering background
As Director of Engineering, Aliona is responsible for other members of the software team without ever having studied software engineering herself – definitely unusual. However, that doesn’t stop her from helping her team with words and deeds. However, without appropriate IT skills, Aliona would not be able to guide her team through emerging challenges and problems: she is familiar with the most important IT concepts and knows how software is structured. However, this was not always the case. When she started in the industry ten years ago, she had to deal with exactly these things in order to be able to keep up and discuss with the developers today.
It’s Aliona’s job to make sure everyone on the tech team feels motivated and engaged at work. The focus is just as much on the working atmosphere as the prioritization of tasks and goals, so that all teams know what they have to do and can support each other in doing so. Aliona also leads the company’s technical initiatives and knows how to build a better organizational structure to enable people and teams to thrive.
Having a sense of community and a clear goal form the core of a team: cooperation is the be-all and end-all – in the end you cover the so-called “blind spots” of each other. While the development team has extensive technical know-how, project management, leadership experience, communication skills and empathy are among Aliona’s strongest attributes.
Aliona initially struggled to overcome her inner critic and self-doubt
But Aliona wasn’t always as self-confident as she is today. She first had to shed her own self-doubt, exchange it for confidence, and let go of thoughts of not being good enough for a particular position. She had to change her mindset and instead of focusing on her shortcomings, she had to recognize her strengths.
Because of her femininity, Aliona brings a new, fresh way of thinking to the male-dominated team. Due to her experience in agile coaching and project management as well as through leading various teams, she is the right contact person to prevent differences of opinion or, if necessary, to resolve them. By realizing that she has very important skills, Aliona managed to build the necessary self-confidence that is necessary as a leader.
In fact, it was two women in leadership positions that motivated Aliona
For a long time, Aliona wondered if she had chosen the right tech industry for herself. However, this was soon to change – Aliona met two women in management positions who were able to convince her otherwise and thus erased all stereotypes she had about the tech and IT industry: the two women were elegant, incredibly smart, communicative and knew a lot about business relationships, cultures, team dynamics and also how to control and manage large projects. Convinced that Aliona would be able to master IT projects in addition to large event productions, one of the two invited her to an interview to become an IT project manager.
Said and done. To this day, Aliona is sure: “If two men had interviewed me at the time or wanted to get me excited about IT, I probably would never have ended up in management at Vinted or any other tech companyt”.
More on the subject:
Women are less likely to want a managerial position
What men can learn from women in terms of collaboration 4.0
Women continue to be underrepresented in managerial positions
Why women have it harder at work
Janina zur Mühlen wants more women in IT